Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene The Hard Way

Mississippi law tries to keep the boys down

By Walter Jowers

JANUARY 31, 2000:  Believe me, I'm sorry to have to bring this up. I had a whole other subject picked out for this week's column, but then this news from Mississippi came burning across my e-mail like a white phosphorus flare. So now I'm duty-bound to tell you: Mississippi politicians want to outlaw public erections. Not erections as in buildings. Erections as in, well, male-arousal kinds of erections.

Here's the skinny: The Mississippi legislature is considering a public-sex-and-nudity law with a provision that would make it illegal for sexually aroused men to show themselves in public. The bill, introduced by Republican state senator Tom King, defines nudity to include "the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state." Apparently, one of King's constituents wanted something done about men who get visibly aroused in strip clubs. If the bill passes, the penalty for displaying a fully covered turgid unit would be a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

When I heard about this, I had two quick thoughts. Thought one: There must be no real problems left to solve in Mississippi. Thought two: Pity the poor policeman who gets stuck on penis patrol. Just being on the lookout for proud man parts would be hellish enough. But when the poor cop actually spots an offender, he'll have to make the arrest, describe the whole ugly scene in a report, then testify about it in court. That might be the only job in the world worse than preparing flapping-and-crapping chickens for the neck saw at the chicken processing plant.

If this law passes, there will surely be lawyers buying ad space over the men's urinals, right next to the lawyers who promise to help drunks beat DUI raps. Arrested for arousal? Call 1-888-NOT MY BONER. The lawyers will be charging men 200 bucks an hour and telling them to say that it wasn't their manflesh, it was just a roll of quarters in their front pocket.

I hope old Dave, my band's former sound man, isn't living in Mississippi these days. Y'see, Dave was--and I guess still is--a freak of nature. Dave could not wear knee-length shorts for fear of Mister No-Shoulders peeping out from under the hem. Back in the day, that rich endowment got Dave a lot of attention from women who were too drunk to think. But under the proposed new law, Dave would surely get arrested every day. He'd be trapped in a looping Kafka-esque nightmare, forever explaining to angry cops that he was born with triple the normal equipment, all the while taking Taser shots and getting whomped with nightsticks.

Talk about your nightmares: There's an actual device--the penile plethysmograph (PPG for short)--that law-enforcement types hook up to a man to see what's really turning him on. The PPG measures blood flow in the offending penis. Just so you know, the thing was developed in Czechoslovakia, in hopes of discovering draft dodgers who tried to avoid military duty by claiming to be gay. The testers would hook a man up to it, show him a little gay porn, and if he didn't go turgid, he had to go into the military. From there, the PPG became a tool used in the treatment of sex offenders. If a man is aroused by an inappropriate image, he gets a little electric shock. Personally, I don't put much stock in the PPG, and I'm scared of people who do.

I hope the men in the Mississippi legislature have enough experience with their own body parts to know that a "discernibly turgid state" isn't exactly a steady state. Sometimes it's a state that can be hours in developing and can stay for a day or two. Other times, it comes on without warning, maxes out at a dizzying rate, then disappears in seconds. Pardon me for saying so, but the male package is like a litter of new kittens. It's in constant motion, always seeking comfort, and looking for a little something to do. A man couldn't make it hold still if he tried.

Contrary to what Mississippi politicians and Czech torturers might think, we men don't have perfect control of our equipment. If we did, there would be no need for Cosmopolitan magazine or family court. At best, our conscious hopes, dreams, and desires are just one vote on the big equipment-control committee. Even if a man unit gets hard enough to drive railroad spikes, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's rarin' to go. Every now and then, the equipment just runs through its preflight checklist and makes sure everything's working. We men can't stop this from happening any more than we can stop our fingernails from growing.

What we can do is control where the thing actually goes. Oddly, there's no news about a state legislature wanting to punish people for consensual misuse of their tabs and slots. There's only this flash from Mississippi that men must control their involuntary responses. And the Mississippi law is supposedly modeled on a similar law in Indiana.

I say it's nuts. I say leave us guys and our private parts alone. Just sitting in a Mississippi strip club is its own punishment.

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